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The Crimson Fairy Book

Part 6 out of 6

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son. The young man himself could imagine no greater happiness,
and when the marriage was over they spent some months at the
court making merry.

At length the king's son said, 'My mother awaits me at home, full of
care and anxiety. Here I must remain no longer, and to-morrow I
will take my wife and my friend and start for home.' And the king
was content that he should do so, and gave orders to prepare for
their journey.

Now in his heart the king cherished a deadly hate towards the poor
young man whom he had tried to kill, but who had returned to him
living, and in order to do him hurt sent him on a message to some
distant spot. 'See that you are quick,' said he, 'for your friend will
await your return before he starts.' The youth put spurs to his horse
and departed, bidding the prince farewell, so that the king's message
might be delivered the sooner. As soon as he had started the king
went to the chamber of the prince, and said to him, 'If you do not
start immediately, you will never reach the place where you must
camp for the night.'

'I cannot start without my friend,' replied the king's son.

'Oh, he will be back in an hour,' replied the king, 'and I will give him
my best horse, so that he will be sure to catch you up.' The king's
son allowed himself to be persuaded and took leave of his
father-in-law, and set out with his wife on his journey home.

Meanwhile the poor friend had been unable to get through his task
in the short time appointed by the king, and when at last he
returned the king said to him,

'Your comrade is a long way off by now; you had better see if you
can overtake him.'

So the young man bowed and left the king's presence, and followed
after his friend on foot, for he had no horse. Night and day he ran,
till at length he reached the place where the king's son had pitched
his tent, and sank down before him, a miserable object, worn out
and covered with mud and dust. But the king's son welcomed him
with joy, and tended him as he would his brother.

And at last they came home again, and the queen was waiting and
watching in the palace, as she had never ceased to do since her son
had rode away. She almost died of joy at seeing him again, but
after a little she remembered his sick friend, and ordered a bed to be
made ready and the best doctors in all the country to be sent for.
When they heard of the queen's summons they flocked from all
parts, but none could cure him. After everyone had tried and failed
a servant entered and informed the queen that a strange old man
had just knocked at the palace gate and declared that he was able to
heal the dying youth. Now this was a holy man, who had heard of
the trouble the king's son was in, and had come to help.

It happened that at this very time a little daughter was born to the
king's son, but in his distress for his friend he had hardly a thought
to spare for the baby. He could not be prevailed on to leave the
sick bed, and he was bending over it when the holy man entered the
room. 'Do you wish your friend to be cured?' asked the new comer
of the king's son. 'And what price would you pay?'

'What price?' answered the king's son; 'only tell me what I can do to
heal him.'

'Listen to me, then,' said the old man. 'This evening you must take
your child, and open her veins, and smear the wounds of your
friend with her blood. And you will see, he will get well in an
instant.'

At these words the king's son shrieked with horror, for he loved the
baby dearly, but he answered, 'I have sworn that I would treat my
friend as if he were my brother, and if there is no other way my
child must be sacrificed.'

As by this time evening had already fallen he took the child and
opened its veins, and smeared the blood over the wounds of the
sick man, and the look of death departed from him, and he grew
strong and rosy once more. But the little child lay as white and still
as if she had been dead. They laid her in the cradle and wept
bitterly, for they thought that by the next morning she would be lost
to them.

At sunrise the old man returned and asked after the sick man.

'He is as well as ever,' answered the king's son.

'And where is your baby?'

'In the cradle yonder, and I think she is dead,' replied the father
sadly.

'Look at her once more,' said the holy man, and as they drew near
the cradle there lay the baby smiling up at them.

'I am St. James of Lizia,,' said the old man, 'and I have come to
help you, for I have seen that you are a true friend. From
henceforward live happily, all of you, together, and if troubles
should draw near you send for me, and I will aid you to get through
them.'

With these words he lifted his hand in blessing and vanished.

And they obeyed him, and were happy and content, and tried to
make the people of the land happy and contented too.

[From Sicilianische Mahrehen Gonzenbach.]

Clever Maria

There was once a merchant who lived close to the royal palace, and
had three daughters. They were all pretty, but Maria, the youngest,
was the prettiest of the three. One day the king sent for the
merchant, who was a widower, to give him directions about a
journey he wished the good man to take. The merchant would
rather not have gone, as he did not like leaving his daughters at
home, but he could not refuse to obey the king's commands, and
with a heavy heart he returned home to say farewell to them.
Before he left, he took three pots of basil, and gave one to each
girl, saying, 'I am going a journey, but I leave these pots. You must
let nobody into the house. When I come back, they will tell me
what has happened.' 'Nothing will have happened,' said the girls.

The father went away, and the following day the king, accompanied
by two friends, paid a visit to the three girls, who were sitting at
supper. When they saw who was there, Maria said, 'Let us go and
get a bottle of wine from the cellar. I will carry the key, my eldest
sister can take the light, while the other brings the bottle.' But the
king replied, 'Oh, do not trouble; we are not thirsty.' 'Very well, we
will not go,' answered the two elder girls; but Maria merely said, 'I
shall go, anyhow.' She left the room, and went to the hall where
she put out the light, and putting down the key and the bottle, ran
to the house of a neighbour, and knocked at the door. 'Who is
there so late?' asked the old woman, thrusting her head out of the
window.

'Oh, let me in,' answered Maria. 'I have quarrelled with my eldest
sister, and as I do not want to fight any more, I have come to beg
you to allow me to sleep with you.'

So the old woman opened the door and Maria slept in her house.
The king was very angry at her for playing truant, but when she
returned home the next day, she found the plants of her sisters
withered away, because they had disobeyed their father. Now the
window in the room of the eldest overlooked the gardens of the
king, and when she saw how fine and ripe the medlars were on the
trees, she longed to eat some, and begged Maria to scramble down
by a rope and pick her a few, and she would draw her up again.
Maria, who was good-natured, swung herself into the garden by the
rope, and got the medlars, and was just making the rope fast under
her arms so as to be hauled up, when her sister cried: 'Oh, there are
such delicious lemons a little farther on. You might bring me one
or two.' Maria turned round to pluck them, and found herself face
to face with the gardener, who caught hold of her, exclaiming,
'What are you doing here, you little thief?' 'Don't call me names,'
she said, 'or you will get the worst of it,' giving him as she spoke
such a violent push that he fell panting into the lemon bushes. Then
she seized the cord and clambered up to the window.

The next day the second sister had a fancy for bananas and begged
so hard, that, though Maria had declared she would never do such a
thing again, at last she consented, and went down the rope into the
king's garden. This time she met the king, who said to her, 'Ah,
here you are again, cunning one! Now you shall pay for your
misdeeds.'

And he began to cross-question her about what she had done.
Maria denied nothing, and when she had finished, the king said
again, 'Follow me to the house, and there you shall pay the penalty.'
As he spoke, he started for the house, looking back from time to
time to make sure that Maria had not run away. All of a sudden,
when he glanced round, he found she had vanished completely,
without leaving a trace of where she had gone. Search was made
all through the town, and there was not a hole or corner which was
not ransacked, but there was no sign of her anywhere. This so
enraged the king that he became quite ill, and for many months his
life was despaired of.

Meanwhile the two elder sisters had married the two friends of the
king, and were the mothers of little daughters. Now one day Maria
stole secretly to the house where her elder sister lived, and
snatching up the children put them into a beautiful basket she had
with her, covered with flowers inside and out, so that no one would
ever guess it held two babies. Then she dressed herself as a boy,
and placing the basket on her head, she walked slowly past the
palace, crying as she went:

'Who will carry these flowers to the king, who lies sick of love?'

And the king in his bed heard what she said, and ordered one of his
attendants to go out and buy the basket. It was brought to his
bedside, and as he raised the lid cries were heard, and peeping in he
saw two little children. He was furious at this new trick which he
felt had been played on him by Maria, and was still looking at them,
wondering how he should pay her out, when he was told that the
merchant, Maria's father, had finished the business on which he had
been sent and returned home. Then the king remembered how
Maria had refused to receive his visit, and how she had stolen his
fruit, and he determined to be revenged on her. So he sent a
message by one of his pages that the merchant was to come to see
him the next day, and bring with him a coat made of stone, or else
he would be punished. Now the poor man had been very sad since
he got home the evening before, for though his daughters had
promised that nothing should happen while he was away, he had
found the two elder ones married without asking his leave. And
now there was this fresh misfortune, for how was he to make a coat
of stone? He wrung his hands and declared that the king would be
the ruin of him, when Maria suddenly entered. 'Do not grieve about
the coat of stone, dear father; but take this bit of chalk, and go to
the palace and say you have come to measure the king.' The old
man did not see the use of this, but Maria had so often helped him
before that he had confidence in her, so he put the chalk in his
pocket and went to the palace.

'That is no good,' said the king, when the merchant had told him
what he had come for.

'Well, I can't make the coat you want,' replied he.

'Then if you would save your head, hand over to me your daughter
Maria.'

The merchant did not reply, but went sorrowfully back to his house,
where Maria sat waiting for him.

'Oh, my dear child, why was I born? The king says that, instead of
the coat, I must deliver you up to him.'

'Do not be unhappy, dear father, but get a doll made, exactly like
me, with a string attached to its head, which I can pull for "Yes"
and "No."'

So the old man went out at once to see about it.

The king remained patiently in his palace, feeling sure that this time
Maria could not escape him; and he said to his pages, 'If a
gentleman should come here with his daughter and ask to be
allowed to speak with me, put the young lady in my room and see
she does not leave it.'

When the door was shut on Maria, who had concealed the doll
under her cloak, she hid herself under the couch, keeping fast hold
of the string which was fastened to its head.

'Senhora Maria, I hope you are well,' said the king when he entered
the room. The doll nodded. 'Now we will reckon up accounts,'
continued he, and he began at the beginning, and ended up with the
flower-basket, and at each fresh misdeed Maria pulled the string, so
that the doll's head nodded assent. 'Who-so mocks at me merits
death,' declared the king when he had ended, and drawing his
sword, cut off the doll's head. It fell towards him, and as he felt the
touch of a kiss, he exclaimed, 'Ah, Maria, Maria, so sweet in death,
so hard to me in life! The man who could kill you deserves to die!'
And he was about to turn his sword on himself, when the true
Maria sprung out from under the bed, and flung herself into his
arms. And the next day they were married and lived happily for
many years.

[From the Portuguese.]

The Magic Kettle

Right in the middle of Japan, high up among the mountains, an old
man lived in his little house. He was very proud of it, and never
tired of admiring the whiteness of his straw mats, and the pretty
papered walls, which in warm weather always slid back, so that the
smell of the trees and flowers might come in.

One day he was standing looking at the mountain opposite, when
he heard a kind of rumbling noise in the room behind him. He
turned round, and in the corner he beheld a rusty old iron kettle,
which could not have seen the light of day for many years. How
the kettle got there the old man did not know, but he took it up and
looked it over carefully, and when he found that it was quite whole
he cleaned the dust off it and carried it into his kitchen.

'That was a piece of luck,' he said, smiling to himself; 'a good kettle
costs money, and it is as well to have a second one at hand in case
of need; mine is getting worn out, and the water is already
beginning to come through its bottom.'

Then he took the other kettle off the fire, filled the new one with
water, and put it in its place.

No sooner was the water in the kettle getting warm than a strange
thing happened, and the man, who was standing by, thought he
must be dreaming. First the handle of the kettle gradually changed
its shape and became a head, and the spout grew into a tail, while
out of the body sprang four paws, and in a few minutes the man
found himself watching, not a kettle, but a tanuki! The creature
jumped off the fire, and bounded about the room like a kitten,
running up the walls and over the ceiling, till the old man was in an
agony lest his pretty room should be spoilt. He cried to a
neighbour for help, and between them they managed to catch the
tanuki, and shut him up safely in a wooden chest. Then, quite
exhausted, they sat down on the mats, and consulted together what
they should do with this troublesome beast. At length they decided
to sell him, and bade a child who was passing send them a certain
tradesman called Jimmu.

When Jimmu arrived, the old man told him that he had something
which he wished to get rid of, and lifted the lid of the wooden
chest, where he had shut up the tanuki. But, to his surprise, no
tanuki was there, nothing but the kettle he had found in the corner.
It was certainly very odd, but the man remembered what had taken
place on the fire, and did not want to keep the kettle any more, so
after a little bargaining about the price, Jimmu went away carrying
the kettle with him.

Now Jimmu had not gone very far before he felt that the kettle was
getting heavier and heavier, and by the time he reached home he
was so tired that he was thankful to put it down in the corner of his
room, and then forgot all about it. In the middle of the night,
however, he was awakened by a loud noise in the corner where the
kettle stood, and raised himself up in bed to see what it was. But
nothing was there except the kettle, which seemed quiet enough.
He thought that he must have been dreaming, and fell asleep again,
only to be roused a second time by the same disturbance. He
jumped up and went to the corner, and by the light of the lamp that
he always kept burning he saw that the kettle had become a tanuki,
which was running round after his tail. After he grew weary of
that, he ran on the balcony, where he turned several somersaults,
from pure gladness of heart. The tradesman was much troubled as
to what to do with the animal, and it was only towards morning that
he managed to get any sleep; but when he opened his eyes again
there was no tanuki, only the old kettle he had left there the night
before.

As soon as he had tidied his house, Jimmu set off to tell his story to
a friend next door. The man listened quietly, and did not appear so
surprised as Jimmu expected, for he recollected having heard, in his
youth, something about a wonder-working kettle. 'Go and travel
with it, and show it off,' said he, 'and you will become a rich man;
but be careful first to ask the tanuki's leave, and also to perform
some magic ceremonies to prevent him from running away at the
sight of the people.'

Jimmu thanked his friend for his counsel, which he followed
exactly. The tanuki's consent was obtained, a booth was built, and
a notice was hung up outside it inviting the people to come and
witness the most wonderful transformation that ever was seen.

They came in crowds, and the kettle was passed from hand to hand,
and they were allowed to examine it all over, and even to look
inside. Then Jimmu took it back, and setting it on the platform,
commanded it to become a tanuki. In an instant the handle began
to change into a head, and the spout into a tail, while the four paws
appeared at the sides. 'Dance,' said Jimmu, and the tanuki did his
steps, and moved first on one side and then on the other, till the
people could not stand still any longer, and began to dance too.
Gracefully he led the fan dance, and glided without a pause into the
shadow dance and the umbrella dance, and it seemed as if he might
go on dancing for ever. And so very likely he would, if Jimmu had
not declared he had danced enough, and that the booth must now
be closed.

Day after day the booth was so full it was hardly possible to enter
it, and what the neighbour foretold had come to pass, and Jimmu
was a rich man. Yet he did not feel happy. He was an honest man,
and he thought that he owed some of his wealth to the man from
whom he had bought the kettle. So, one morning, he put a hundred
gold pieces into it, and hanging the kettle once more on his arm, he
returned to the seller of it. 'I have no right to keep it any longer,' he
added when he had ended his tale, 'so I have brought it back to you,
and inside you will find a hundred gold pieces as the price of its
hire.'

The man thanked Jimmu, and said that few people would have been
as honest as he. And the kettle brought them both luck, and
everything went well with them till they died, which they did when
they were very old, respected by everyone.

[Adapted from Japanische Mahrchen]

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